Without Europe to concern themselves, most were expecting a strong lineup for Liverpool when they took on Tottenham in the EFL Cup. What they got may have turned in a strong performance in the end, but with 11 changes from Saturday’s league game, it was very much Liverpool’s B Team.
Tottenham similarly ran out a heavily changed side, and so two of the Premier League’s title challengers this season let their youth and reserve players battle it out for a place in the quarter-finals. On balance, Liverpool were by far the better side and the final 2-1 scoreline greatly flattered Tottenham.
“Yes, when you see our chances and see the chances of Tottenham,” was Jürgen Klopp’s blunt reply when asked if Liverpool deserved the victory—and perhaps should even have won by a greater margin. “The penalty made it a little bit closer. That was the only really difficult situation for us.
“After this, with 10 or 12 minutes to go, it is like it’s a game-changer. But we had the opportunities, we had the chances. We could have scored two, three, four times. But we don’t live in dreamland and it’s not that you can think about closing the game at 3-0 or 4-0 early enough and go to the quarter-final.”
Up until Tottenham’s second half goal, the game certainly looked to be on its way to a 3-0 or 4-0 victory for the host Reds such was the at times dominating performance from their B Team. Youngsters like Ovie Ejaria and Trent Alexander-Arnold impressed massively, and more senior players were finding their form.
After struggling to make the kind of impact he regularly did to end last season, Divock Origi was the best player on the pitch for much of the second half. Alberto Moreno shook off the rust and turned in an assured performance at left back. And, headlining it all, Daniel Sturridge scored a brace.
Still, it could have been better. It probably should have been better. And Liverpool’s lapses and mistakes meant a scoreline that was closer than it needed to be and a nervy end to the match for the players, fans, and manager—giving Klopp plenty to work on in training over the coming weeks.
“We had to do the job,” Klopp added. “We didn’t score in the moments when we could have. They scored the penalty. So 2-1 is close but now it is not interesting anymore because we are in the next round.